Civil (affirmative) action

October 19, 1999
Corcoran Hall
9 p.m.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to tonight’s boxing match. Let me introduce, to my left, College Republicans Sam McCree and Richard Nephew. To my right, College Democrats David Burt and John Dunn. Now boxers let me remind you, no hitting below the belt: we want this to be a fair fight. Now, let’s get ready to rumble!

Well maybe it wasn’t exactly a knockdown, drag-out brawl when the College Democrats debated the College Republicans on affirmative action Tuesday night, but the event certainly did not lack enthusiasm.

The affirmative action debate, the latest in a yearlong series from the campus political groups, began as both sides introduced their viewpoints and continued back and forth with rebuttals.

The time limit was set at one and a half minutes per statement to prevent the sermons for which politicians are so well known. After the formal debate concluded, the four participants answered questions from the crowd. Then the debate opened up to the audience.

Everyone has an emotional involvement, McCree said of the spirited audience participation.

Throughout the political discussion, the CRs maintained that affirmative action encourages bias and prejudice in American society instead of solving the problem. They argued that education would solve the problem of racism and give every citizen equal opportunity. The Democrats favored affirmative action, saying that it leveled the playing field.

In true political form the debates had an overwhelming amount of statistics, quotations and analogies. The discussion always came back to the same issue of colleges and universities and their role in affirmative action. CRs referenced California’s public universities. They said when the universities abandoned affirmative action in the admissions process, most of the smaller University of California schools saw an increase in minority applications.

Democrats responded that exposure is the only way to alleviate racial prejudices. Burt, who is black, told an anecdote about a girl he met at GW his freshman year who thought that all blacks were violent. Growing up in a white neighborhood and going to a parochial school, all of her exposure to blacks was from watching the television.

Speaking of prejudice, what about women? Women are included in affirmative action’s definition of discriminated parties. Yet when a question arose from a female audience member about women’s role in affirmative action, the four male debaters didn’t really tackle the issue.

Dunn said, The debate is important to show that Democrats care about the issues and the American people.

Despite the crowd’s bickering and snickering, the debaters kept the discussion civilized and fair. The turnout of more than 30 students had great political knowledge, and comments and questions were thought provoking and informative. Still, long-winded questions tended to resemble political platforms.

Whenever (the political parties) get together to debate any racial issue, there will be a lot of disagreement, McCree said. But I think it was successful. It was a chance to hear others’ opinions, and college is about learning.

The final bell rang, parties returned to their corners and the debate came to an end.

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